Friday, February 14, 2003

The New York Times op-ed page is an endless source of amusement; the latest example is Nancy Soderberg's column on dealing with North Korea. Now, I've already pointed out that "negotiating with North Korea" is a meaningless phrase, given that country's unblemished record of ignoring any agreements it negotiates. But the storied history of that record, and the confusion it engenders in some foreign policy experts, is on spectacular display in Soderberg's opinion piece.

"The Bush administration should look more closely at the history of negotiations with North Korea," writes Soderberg. What would it see?
"[T]o encourage the North Koreans to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Soviet Union offered to build them four nuclear reactors in the late 1970's and early 1980's. While the reactors were never built, North Korea did join the treaty in 1985.

"In 1989, the United States learned that North Korea might be processing nuclear material, thus violating the treaty. So President George H. W. Bush struck his own deal....In exchange for North Korea's agreeing to let the atomic energy agency monitor and inspect its nuclear facilities, he withdrew United States nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, canceled the annual joint United States-South Korea military exercise and agreed to a high-level meeting with North Korean officials....

"In 1993, the Clinton administration discovered that the North Koreans were cheating on this deal, too. A year later, the administration signed what became known as the Agreed Framework, under which North Korea's plutonium-based nuclear program was frozen and the international community provided North Korea with light-water reactors and fuel oil while the reactors were being built. North Korea violated the framework several years later by starting a uranium-based nuclear program....."
And the conclusion?
"If he has learned from history, Mr. Bush will negotiate directly with the North Koreans. In exchange for an end to both of North Korea's nuclear programs and tougher inspections, he will need to put new incentives on the table...."
Well, somebody should certainly look more closely at the history of negotiations with North Korea.

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